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Joseph 2a: challenging the future of a modern past

March 26, 2011

The Dream Quake - Elizabeth Knox

Laura Joseph’s 2009 article gave me a better understanding of where the cultural interest in modernity connects with Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter duet.[1]

She looks at Dreamhunter comparatively with Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria to present a really coherent argument. I enjoyed reading it and recommend it as a provocative one.

To sum up, in my own words, and as best I can:

Joseph argues that Dreamhunter and Carpentaria “re-imagine the futures of the nation.”

She describes how “All three novels unfold within imaginary places that are not quite their geographic equivalent. …While Southland erases the nominal space of New Zealand, the geographic formations and particularities remain. Decorating the prefacing maps of Dreamhunter and Dreamquake are images of New Zealand’s famous flightless bird, the kiwi, metonymically and emblematically figuring national particularity.” “Knox’s cotemporaneous Dreamhunter duet,” Joseph writes, “unfolds in the ‘not-quite’ allegorical space of nation.”

Place and time are rewired through fantasy to allow the reader to reimagine the outcome of modernity’s attitudes and excesses. The land itself is given a vitality of fantastic proportions in the novel, allowing it to take an agentic role in the exploration (and undoing) of the very suffocating future modernity inheres.  The novel gives power to a generational concept of time that undoes “the linear temporality of the nation” and allows us to consider the direction a centralized, corrupt and punitive government could take our world in.


[1] Joseph, Laura: “Dreaming Phantoms and Golems: Elements of the Place Beyond Nation in Carpentaria and Dreamhunter” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL (Special Issue: Australian Literature in a Global World) 2009, 1-10.

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